As the holidays swiftly approach, we asked readers to send in their favorite wintry rituals and traditions to partake in during these waning weeks of the year. Here are some of our favorites.
"As someone who comes from humble beginnings, volunteering has always been a memorable holiday theme for me in hopes of giving back to my home city all that I’ve received. I have never volunteered the same way each holiday but a specific holiday ritual I would like to begin each year is street painting downtown for the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade as a Tech Crew Volunteer. I’ve gotten into it this year & loved it! It’s the night before Thanksgiving & some folks have been painting every year for decades. The best part is seeing your street painting on TV the next day as folks parade down State Street while you’re at home with family/friends stuffing your face with food!"
— Maurice Washington
"Please remember there is a second Christmas on January 7 celebrated by many Orthodox Christians including Ukrainians, Ethiopians, and Serbs — among others. The real celebrating happens the evening of January 6 - Xmas Eve. My mother is African American and Catholic. My father was Serbian and Orthodox — so I got to celebrate both Christmases! And two Easters most years (every seven years the Easters fall on the same day). The discrepancies on the dates are because of the Julian calendar versus the Gregorian calendar."
— Tina Hone
"Our Christmas day tradition started about 15 years ago. My mother, husband and children decided we didn’t like to cook on Christmas day. So every year, after opening presents, we drive up to Devon Avenue and have an Indian buffet at Tiffin The Indian Kitchen. Our bellies full, we then travel to the beautiful Garfield Conservatory and spend an hour in tropical heat, admiring the gorgeous plants and trees."
— Katrin Asbury
"Every year my family watched one eighth of the movie Eight Crazy Nights on each night of Hanukkah."
— Jacob Austen
"Nearly 40 years ago my next door neighbors, my sister’s family and my family joined for Christmas dinner. The “family" around the table has changed over the years but one tradition has never changed: we sing Christmas carols after dinner using the same paper copies we used 40 years ago.
"A relatively new tradition in my nuclear family is Christmas breakfast (before the dinner) at my house. My BFF always joins us and anyone else who’s available. Traditionally I serve cowboy casserole but the past year (or 2) the casserole hasn’t been great. I think I’ve “lost my touch." So now there’s debate about the casserole for this Christmas or change to something else. French toast casserole anyone?
"Another tradition we’ve incorporated for the last 10 years is the Right Left game. It’s a lot of fun and everyone looks forward to playing."
— Eve Earles
"Before COVID, my best Holiday tradition was attending The Goodman Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol." It always, always accomplished "True Christmas Spirit" each year for decades."
— Brenda Jordan
"For the holidays, my husband and I enjoy camping. Why piss off one side of the family when you can piss off both? Though we enjoy exploring the U.S., our favorite place is Southern Africa. Especially since our winter is their summer."
— Paula Gean
"For the last three years in the days leading up to Christmas I’ve trekked approx. four hours one-way to Rudolph, Wisconsin, to visit a roadside attraction called the Rudolph Grotto and Wonder Cave.
"Slowly assembled by hand, stone by stone, from 1928-1983, the grotto is a 45-foot-high mound of earth and rocks containing within it and atop it almost a quarter-mile of winding passageways and two dozen stone shrines. The cave was assembled almost entirely by the town’s Priest, Father Wagner, and his devoted assistant Edmund Rybicki — both of whom reportedly had never ventured inside a cave before.
"Surrounding the cave is a 7.5-acre garden envisioned as a “mini Eden,” complete with gravel paths snaking around dozens more shrines honoring saints, World War I veterans and Wisconsin history. Every year I’ve visited it’s a perfectly gray evening just before dusk, with a light dusting of snow over the compound. There’s not a soul in sight, and the only sound is the crunch of ice beneath your feet and the occasional whistle of a cargo train as it passes through the adjacent church’s small graveyard. It’s perfectly eerie.
"After spending a couple hours wandering the property in quiet contemplation, I head to a nearby McDonald’s for a hot chocolate and some fries."
— Hannah Faris, editor
"I go for a walk every New Year’s Day at sunset, after going to Promontory Point to do my “what Hyde Parkers are thinking about the new year" piece, while listening to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin.’”
— Aaron Gettinger, staff writer